19th Sunday in Ordinary Time (A)



Matthew 14: 22-33                                             August 13, 2017

“Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid (…) O you of little faith, why did you doubt?”

The miracle of Jesus walking on the water is probably the most popular of Jesus´ miracles, but it is possibly the one that has been more doubted of all Biblical miracles. There is an anecdote that could explain why. There was a freshmen class at a Catholic university. The young students were so questioning and skeptical that the religion and ethics professor was unable to teach the class. Once, a very dynamic young priest was sent as the new lecturer. To gain their attention he took the freshmen to a field trip. They stop right in front of a lake. After introducing himself, he asked the first question: “Do you believe in miracles?” Immediately all of them answered “No.” Without any further explanation, he said, “I am going to walk on the water.” To the students´ astonishment, he did. As if it would be on dry ground, he walked on the water. However there was still an incredulous student who shouted, “I bet you could not do it again.”

Even thought, many among our people are not active in their religion, there is a high percent of Catholics and Protestants who believe in God, and pray, and agree that even today God works miracles. But we are careful and sometimes dubious about miracles today; and there are some reasons: practices of some of our Catholics are next to the superstition; many TV, and radio, and garage church evangelists assure miracles as long as people support them with money and tithes; weak politicians promise miracles if you vote for them. All these abuses of miracle power make people skeptical about miracles, and tempt them not to believe in the power and action of God, mainly against natural laws. The advice should be: Let us be serious and mature in our faith. Let us believe in God and in his power, but not in superstition.

Part of being serious about our faith is to admit that miracles are not necessarily breaks of the natural laws. They are experiences when God breaks into our lives, and he asks for our obedience of faith. Miracles are moments when we see and experience the presence of God, even as a “tiny whispering sound,” as God manifests today to Elijah, in the first reading. From this point of view we should see Jesus´ miracle today, and every miracle.

After Jesus having just fed more than five thousand people with bread, he ordered his disciples to break camp and go to the opposite side of the lake. He was planning to dismiss the crowds and spend the night in prayer in the mountains by himself. He needed to be in touch with his Father. He liked to do it. The disciples set sail for the other shore, a few miles away. But hurricane winds came out and changed his plans. What was supposed to have been a peaceful night became a roller coaster ride. The apostles were scared to death. They could not even imagine that the one walking on the water was Jesus. They thought it was a ghost. Let us not forget that Jesus was a compassionate man, and human needs surpass all other claims, even to postpone prayer this time. As he walked across the stormy waters, he calmed his friends, "Courage! It is I! Do not be afraid." It was the same advice he had given so many times in the Gospel, not to be afraid. Today it is not a simple advice, it is a command. Jesus came on board. After Jesus and Peter, who tried to imitate his Master walking on the water, got into the boat, the wind died down and Peter´s mates did him homage.

Let us imagine ourselves in the same boat when a storm comes and we feel in danger and are terrified. We cry out, "Lord, save us." We hear the answer, "Courage. It is I. Do not be afraid." All we need to do is allow him into our boat. The Book of Kings tells us today that God speaks in silence. So we need that silence every day, taking at least twenty minutes of prayer, reading a Gospel passage, like today´s, and allowing Jesus to talk to us.

The main sense of today´s miracle was not that Jesus had walked on the water. By the matter of fact, at that moment the disciples did not recognize it was Jesus, they thought it was a ghost; it was when Peter and the other disciples recognized Jesus as “truly the Son of God.” And this is in fact the miracle, feeling the presence of Jesus. Peter had to jump to the water to understand his own weakness and the mighty power of his Master. He took the risk, although his faith was weak. We too, have to take risks when our lives are in the middle of a storm, and find security listening to the Lord´s voice, “Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid (…) O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” and get hold of Jesus´ stretched hand.

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